Archive for May 2011

How Safe is Your Data?

May 10, 2011

by Kristy Barker, Senior Account Manager at WhatCounts

The recent email data breaches have consumers more concerned than ever about the safety of their email addresses and other personal data. Marketers are becoming increasingly concerned as they wonder “Could this happen to us?” With hundreds of major brands affected in the recent high profile Epsilon security breach, data security is moving to the forefront of the digital marketing community.

Email addresses are extremely valuable data pieces and often hard to obtain, as consumers are becoming increasingly leery of giving them out. Therefore, it’s of the upmost importance to ensure that your consumers are confident in your ability to keep their data secure. Adding in financial information or social security numbers increases this importance tenfold.

So how do you, as a marketer, ensure that your customer data remains safe from security breaches? While there is no 100% fail-proof method (hackers are getting smarter by the minute), there are some definite best practices that should be followed anytime you are dealing with customer data—especially email addresses.

Enforce a password policy. Easy to crack passwords and predictable log on credentials leave your entire network at risk. Create a password policy for employees to follow and enforce password updates at certain intervals. Avoid sending passwords via email if possible.

Avoid sending sensitive information through email. If you need to send customer data, do so by using a secure FTP site and encrypt the data. Make sure to send the encryption key separately from the data, or share the encryption key via a method other than email.

Designate a data security specialist. This can be tacked on to an existing role, or if your security needs warrant, a new role can be created. This person would be responsible for creating and enforcing data security within the office. Part of this role should be to stay up to date on possible methods of breaches and best practices within the security community.

Be wary of unsolicited attachments. Attachments are a prime way of spreading malware and viruses. Educate all employees on the red flags of attachments from unknown sources and advise them to check with the data security specialist before proceeding with suspicious attachments.

Data security is going to become more and more important as hackers and phishers become more and more savvy. Now is the time to evaluate your current security practices and update as needed. Your customers (and your reputation) will thank you.


DMA Atlanta Luncheon May 19th, 2011 | How to Acquire More Customers: The Killer Business Strategy

May 9, 2011


Ken Robbins | President & Founder
Response Mine Interactive

ExactTargetThe amazing thing about business is that having more smart corporate executives in a company can lead to an increase in dumb decisions that lose money and confuse or irritate customers. Corporate policy, financial targets and even the organization itself often create unintended consequences from decisions that alienate customers and impede profits.

From start-up companies to the Fortune 100, most bad decisions come down to the company not having a basic go-to-market strategy that is known and understood by every manager and leader. The absence of such a well-understood strategy leaves companies with conflicts in their day-to-day decision making.

In this presentation, Ken will explain why customer acquisition is the most essential strategy in your marketing arsenal and why conversion is the single most powerful lever in your marketing process. He will share some of the most common mistakes companies make that kill customer acquisition along with the basic killer business strategies that can be used to organize business efforts and drive long-term profits and customer growth for businesses.

Session Takeaways

  • Attendees will discover the common mistakes companies make that kill customer acquisition
  • They will learn how to avoid bad business decisions that alienate customers and impede profits
  • Attendees will learn how to determine and implement business strategies that drive long-term revenue, customer growth and organize business efforts

Speaker: Ken Robbins | President & Founder, Response Mine Interactive

When: Thursday May 19th, 2011 | 11:30 AM – 01:30 PM

Location: Maggiano’s Perimeter  | 4400 Ashford Dunwoody Rd |  30346 Atlanta

More information



– DMA Atlanta Luncheon June 16th, 2011 – Exact Target

DMA Atlanta Luncheon July 21st, 2011 – Jamie Turner | 60 Second Marketer

How to Acquire More Customers: The Killer Business Strategy

May 9, 2011

By Ken Robbins, Response Mine Interactive (RMI)

 The amazing thing about business is that having more smart corporate executives in a company can actually lead to an increase in dumb decisions that lose money and confuse or irritate customers. Corporate policy, financial targets and even the organization itself often create unintended consequences from decisions that alienate customers and impede profits.

From start-up companies to the Fortune 100, most bad decisions come down to the company not having a basic go-to-market strategy that is known and understood by every manager and leader. The absence of such a well-understood strategy leaves companies with conflicts in their day-to-day decision making. This leads to businesses ignoring loyal customers; disregarding better margins; creating marketing and advertising programs that overlook profits and new customers; and employing marketing practices that annoy consumers.

As a business owner, customer acquisition is the most essential strategy in your marketing arsenal. A high-value customer is someone who is going to buy more, complain less, refer friends and colleagues, and then buy again. Converting leads into high-value customers is the single most powerful lever in your marketing process.

Before embarking on a customer acquisition program ask yourself these five questions:

1) How many new customers did we acquire last month?

2) How do we irrirate our customers?

3) What’s the difference between average customers and best customers?

4) What are our conversion rates?

5) What do our best customers like to buy from us?

There are more than 30 search marketing tactics that we use at RMI to help our clients acquire more customers while better aligning their marketing with process and strategy. By focusing on all of these tactics – not just bidding – we have been able to generate billions of dollars in revenue for our clients over the past decade.  These tactics are divided into four categories, all centered around measurement. Let’s begin with creative.

Creative: Google, and all the search engines, want the best content to rise to the top. Best content is always that which is most relevant to the users’ queries. That means creative, varied by keyword, is the most powerful set of tactics you can employ. Some tips:  Insert keywords in description. Put brand of product in title. Organize keywords in more ad groups.

Keywords and Match Types: Never start off with broad match.  When the strategy pendulum swings in the other direction with only exact match in the account, you end up cutting out too much volume. There is a way to get both.  Set up every keyword to run on all three match types.  Some other tips for keywords:  Buy plurals. Buy misspellings. Go very long tail. For match types:  Buy every keyword on exact match. Buy the same keywords on multiple match types and track separately.

Bidding:  Bidding is the most powerful lever you can pull to increase or decrease volume quickly. That’s why it is so overused. Simple stated, you should raise the winners in your campaign and lower the losers. Some tips: Manage budget by day of week.  Adjust bids seasonally. Raise/lower bids by ROI.

Measurement: Measure everything. Measure the clicks, sales and calls by keyword. This is the only way you can tell if the keyword is productive and profitable. Some other tips:  Measure at ad group level. Measure assist of non-brand to brand. Measure ROI at keyword level.

So, how do you increase customer growth and drive long-term profits for your company? Align your marketing with your business process and strategy. Make sure everyone within your organization understands your go-to-market plan. Invest in acquiring more customers and focus on the lifetime value of the customer. Above all else, efficiently acquire high-value customers. Now that’s the killer business strategy.

Ken will be presenting “How to Acquire More Customers:  The Killer Business Strategy” during the upcoming DMA ATL luncheon on May 19 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Maggiano’s Perimeter. To register for the event, click here.

About the Author

Ken Robbins is the founder and president of Response Mine Interactive (RMI), an Atlanta-based, award-winning digital agency that helps clients acquire more customers using direct response digital marketing.

For the past decade, Ken and his team have generated billions of dollars in revenue for leading brands in the b2b, healthcare, travel, and home services channels. Some of his agency’s clients include: The Home Depot, Rooms To Go, Carter’s, Osh Kosh B’gosh, Liberty Medical, The Scooter Store, Education First Educational Tours, Maid Brigade, Terminix and formerly Staples, Travelzoo and Hallmark.

With more than 26 years of combined sales and marketing experience, Ken is a well-respected marketing guru and business strategist that has spoken at more than a dozen tradeshows, conferences and events. He is  a sought-after business and marketing resource for a variety of leading industry publications and is a contributor to the book, The Digital Media Innovation Playbook, due to hit shelves in August 2011. Ken is also a guest marketing and business lecturer at Emory University and The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

When Ken is not with his wife and three children, you’ll find him playing Words with Friends, Twittering or sitting stoically at a poker table.

Author Contact Information
Ken Robbins



Phone:  404-233-0370

How Banks are Capitalizing on Social Media

May 9, 2011

by Rick Ellis, AIS Media’s Director of Channel Partner Development

            While the banking industry today is still winding through recovery, many local banks, regional institutions and credit unions have positioned themselves to fare better in the market than their “too-big-to-fail” competitors. Two contributing factors include; a strong public backlash against “Big Banks” which has produced support for local institutions perceived by customers to be more sensitive to the needs of their community and secondly; a strong synergy that community-led banks are developing with emerging social media

Social media marketing has become a goldmine for tapping into a growing audience of more than 600 million potential customers on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and others. These users share their opinions about products or services with others, increasing the popularity of a brand and increasing the number of loyal visitors to a company website. It also gives marketers the ability to be part of the online conversations on an individualized basis. Social media provides explosive viral marketing potential and positively impacts the ever-important website search engine rankings.  Financial institutions have learned social is a way to become more transparent to customers, build trust, retain customers, increase referrals, develop relationships and provide additional services and products.

Community banks and credit unions, by their very business model are very social in nature.  Smaller, locally-focused, community-driven banks have built their businesses around striving to understand their local customers’ needs and delivering high-quality, relationship-based, individualized services. They strive to engage their customers and in turn leverage those relationships to build loyalty and advocacy.

Brett King, Author of “Banking 2.0” shared with the Huffington Post his belief that “the very sense of community that binds the individuals who support such financial institutions is also a core element in the success of social media.”  It is his belief that community-led institutions are enjoying success by building the same sense of community online as they do in the real world.

In a recent survey of 89,000 North American banking customers conducted by Bain & Company, a global business consulting firm, it was reported that “organic growth rooted in strong customer relationships represents the best path forward for retail banks.”  Interestingly, the report demonstrated since 2009 loyalty scores for community banks and credit unions has topped those of national branch network banks by a wide margin.

The key in the banking industry is to reach consumers where they are actively spending their time; 75% of the population is researching, shopping and socializing online and this number keeps growing. Consumers spend as much time today with social media channels as they do watching television channels. They are in Facebook, participating in blogs and chatter, following twitter and other forums. Over 200 million users now access Facebook from their mobile phones.  Opinions, both positive and negative are being shared online. Recent studies show peer recommendations influence decisions 78% of the time versus 14% from traditional advertising.  With marketing budgets that pale in comparison to the competition’s, smaller banking firms are using social media to more effectively target key customers.

For bankers, reaching out, communicating and listening to customers to engage them as advocates creates satisfied customers and those satisfied customers become word-of-mouth advocates.  They remain longer with their banks than those who are not.  Equally important, they also buy more products, refer more new customers and cost less to serve. Product sales such as investments and wealth management have become increasingly profitable for banks.

            American Banker says “social media is the new frontier of relationship management” and encourages financial institutions to “get in the game.” Here are a dozen ways financial institutions are using social media today:

  • Cost savings
  • Customer retention
  • Customer service
  • Ability to maintain a dialogue with consumers
  • Product and services research
  • Product cross-sell and promotion
  • Transparency and trust building
  • Marketing and promotion
  • Reaching highly targeted consumers
  • News and events
  • Community building
  • Reputation management, risk mitigation and damage control

According to the ABA Banking Journal, in an article entitled “Social Media to the Rescue? Facebook versus the Robocaller”, damage control found an unlikely supporter from United Bank of Atmore, in Atmore, Alabama. The bank had a policy of blocking Facebook access on employees’ computers. However, following a rash of scam attempts from robocallers with pre-recorded messages trying to lure unsuspecting customers into sharing their personal information, management turned to employees’ personal Facebook pages to warn customers.  The response was immediate and dramatic from bank customers. Ironically, the bank immediately began developing a social media marketing program of its own.

Many banks and credit unions have cautiously approached adapting social media strategies. Concerns have centered primarily on data security and privacy as well as regulation uncertainty.  In the fall of 2010, the SEC and FINRA released social media guidelines that spell out the rules for social media in terms of promotion and advertising, supervision, monitoring and record keeping.  However, in joining the new frontier of relationship management, banks must have proper planning, execution, support, and monitoring in place.  Developing a social media marketing strategy should not be a “try this at home” project or dumped on the IT department.  It requires specific strategy, development, technology, analytics and on-going management.  An experienced and reputable social media agency that is on top of the changing financial landscape should be an absolute minimum requirement to any bank or credit union seeking to direct and contribute to the online conversations.

But what does a properly executed social media strategy mean to the bottom line? Bain and Company found that the banks that are loyalty leaders enjoy a growth rate that is 10% higher and a cost of funds that is 80 basis points lower than banks that focus primarily on being price leaders.  It’s not a matter of ‘if a bank will adopt social media but when’; and today agile local banks, regional institutions and credit unions are leading the charge into social media adaption.

Rick Ellis has an MBA in e-Business and is AIS Media’s Director of Channel Partner Development. AIS Media is an award winning Atlanta-based digital and social media engagement agency. AIS Media’s clients include leading companies, governments and Fortune 500 corporations.

For more, visit: or at |

Home Depot Latest iPhone App

May 9, 2011

by Mike Wittenstein, Customer Experience Designer and Speaker at Mike Wittenstein

To kick of the new year at our January meeting, Customer Experience Designer Mike Wittenstein revealed some of the secrets the world’s best brands use in crafting their customer experiences. If you missed it, you can see the full presentation or a four-minute highlights video.

Mike believes that companies should be best at what their customers want most. And that customer experience is one of the best ways to differentiate a business. Getting customers and shareholders to rave is what Mike does best.

In this month’s newsletter, Mike tackles how technology can improve the shopping experience. “Direct Marketing should be considered as a part of every single app on the web,” according to Wittenstein. He’ll review Home Depot’s latest iPhone app and show you what makes itit tick, what makes users click, and what makes the cash register ring.

Quick Summary

The Home Depot app not only makes shopping easy, it makes customers better shoppers with its built-in tools that help avoid those annoying extra trips to the store. 


The Home Depot app is one of the only apps that actually makes shoppers better. It has free tools for measuring, estimating materials, and even knowing exactly the right nut and bolt size for projects. It’s an app that truly enhances the customer experience!

The opening screens are simple and easy-to-read. Click on the double right arrow (it’s not easy if you have a big finger) to extend the lower menu options. (Most of these are self-explanatory and won’t be reviewed here.)

The killer app in Home Depot’s app is under the first menu choice “Find Nut and Bolt Size Quickly”. Just put any size nut on the screen (carefully, without scratching), then use the slider bar to adjust the on-screen image to match the size of the real nut lying on top of it. There’s a handy “Save Results” button in case you’re specifying several sizes.

There’s a thread measurement tool as well. It works in the same way. Lay the bolt on top of the screen, then use the slider bar to adjust the zig-zag line to match the thread pattern of the real bolt lying on the screen.

These two features are cool for people who love tools. Not only do they enhance the customer experience, they save business and customer costs at the same time. Nuts and bolts are one of the slowest moving, lowest margin items in a typical Home Depot store. They take up an entire aisle and require a full-time person. That’s pretty expensive when the average ticket for consumers is probably just a few dollars. Using this app, customers can feel confident they will get the right pieces and right dimensions without having to make multiple trips to the store due to trial-and-error.

The second button on the home screen “Step Up With a New Walk-Behind Mower” is seasonal. This section relies on simple yet info-packed product descriptions to help customers explore options and get clearer on their needs. The most valuable feature is the opportunity to see the product in action through a video.

Under the Shop tab, the category and product listings are long. Too long. But when you consider that this taxonomy has been vetted over tens of millions of transactions, it makes sense. There’s really no other way to do it without employing advanced contextual algorithms like Autonomy’s.

It takes patience and a strong general knowledge of construction to get down to a product level description if you don’t just type in your search. For example, it took nine (9) taps on the screen to get to a special kind of clamp. (Granted, this is a worse case scenario based on picking categories with the most remaining items.)

The Toolbox tab includes free utilities (usually $0.99 to $4.99 each on Apple’s app store) for measuring and specifying components (like nuts and bolts) and materials (like paint, wallpaper, etc.)

A handy converter tools translates English measures to metric for area, length, mass, temperature, and volume.

There’s even a built-in tape measure. Well, you have to measure one thing first—your foot. Tapping on the screen once for each step helps you estimate short distances.

The shopping features are well thought out and make shopping for construction projects with many parts easy.

What’s Good

  • The toolkit is awesome, truly best-in-class.
  • The interface strikes a good balance between quantity of information and the ease of finding it.
  • Shopping functionality is tightly integrated.
  • Video help is a great value add.
  • Live chat help and Twitter help are built in.

What’s Not So Good

  • It takes too many steps to drill down for certain items.
  • Some of the videos could do more showing, not just telling.

What I Would Do

  • Offer a Spanish language option.
  • Tie pro accounts to past purchases to speed the finding process.
  • Allow customers to specify the project they are working on (as an option) up front. Search ahead algorithms could speed searching, remind shoppers of go-with items to save them time (e.g. nuts and bolts), and recommend related items.
  • Add a share-a-picture-with-an-expert capability to make it easier for pros in the field (or consumers at home) to get on-screen help to diagnose a problem or get the right part. This feature might make the call center more helpful—and more profitable.
  • Offer an app overview (like Hyundai does for its flagship Equus vehicle) to encourage more usage.

About the Company

The Home Depot, headquartered in Atlanta, GA, operates approximately 2,244 home improvement retail stores in four countries. It trades on the NYSE under the symbol HD.

About Mike Wittenstein

Mike helps business leaders around the world differentiate their brands by dramatically improving their customer experiences. As a customer experience designer, Mike shops each business as a consumer and works in it as an employees. Then, he designs the kind of experiences customers notice, remember, and rave about. With two decades of experience and hundreds of assignments under his belt, Mike knows how to design experiences that win customers’ hearts on the front lines—and earn shareholder approval on the bottom line. Based in Atlanta, Mike works globally.